El Al Israel Airlines Flight 253 after the attack

On December 28th, 1968, an Israel Defense Forces commando unit stormed the Beirut airport and destroyed close to a dozen airplanes in direct retaliation to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) attack of an El-Al plane in Athens. 

The attack which killed Leon Shirdan, 50, of Haifa, and injured several others was part of a larger chain of similar events that resulted in Israeli casualties along with millions in property damage and the direct assault on Israeli sovereignty and citizens' freedom of movement. 

Despite what the Israeli government deemed as proper reasoning for the Beirut airport assault, it was condemned by many countries, including the US which states their findings indicated no evidence of the Lebanese Authority's involvement in the hijacking of El-Al flight 253.

UN Resolution 262 which came in the Israeli raid’s aftermath stated it: “Condemns Israel for its premeditated military action in violation of its obligations under the Charter and the cease-fire resolutions; Considers that such premeditated acts of violence endanger the maintenance of the peace; Issues a solemn warning to Israel that if such acts were to be repeated, the Council would have to consider further steps…”

The raid itself took place on a wintery Saturday evening and began with eight IDF helicopters leaving Israeli territory and headed for Beirut. The mission was ultimately to detonate a number of Lebanese-owned jets of the “Middle East Airlines” national company. The operation, militarily speaking, was a complete success and went by with virtually no resistance from Lebanese forces or nearby PLO-related terrorist organizations.

Smoke bombs were dropped ahead of the troop's arrival to ensure the mission went by undetected. The resistance Israeli commando forces faced amounted to a few Lebanese reports of nearby security guards aimlessly using their pistols. A popular yet unconfirmed IDF rumor claims that the highest-ranking officer on site, Brigadier General Rafael Eitan, walked into the Beirut airport to order a coffee while paying with Israeli currency. Rafael Eitan would later become the 11th appointed Chief of Staff for the IDF. 

In addition to the UN and US condemnations of the raid, the French government was severely offended by the IDF operation due to its historical connection to Lebanon. French President and war hero Charles de Gaulle summoned the Israeli ambassador for a talk, resulting in an arms embargo on Israel; Causing Israel to further advance its weapon manufacturing abilities in both the armed vehicle and assault rifle industries.

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